DEQ grants extension for Sutton Lake power plant closure

DEQ grants extension for Sutton Lake power plant closure
In this Sept. 19, 2018, photo released by Cape Fear River Watch, heavy rains from Hurricane Florence erode and breach a coal ash landfill at the L.V. Sutton Power Station in Wilmington, N.C. (Kemp Burdette/Cape Fear River Watch via AP).

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - A power station in Wilmington has until Dec. 1 to close two coal ash basins after Duke Energy asked for an extension from the state Department of Environmental Quality.

According to a news release from DEQ, Duke's request to extend the Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA) closure deadline for two coal ash basins at the L.V. Sutton Energy Complex (Sutton Plant) was partially granted Tuesday. DEQ approved a four-month variance — not the six months requested by Duke — which will extend the closure date for the 1971 and 1984 basins to Dec. 1, and will require monthly progress updates from Duke.

In September, a dam at the plant was breached by floodwaters from Hurricane Florence, and coal ash from an adjacent dump might have flowed into the Cape Fear River. Duke Energy said water samples taken upstream and downstream from the Sutton plant showed “little to no impact to river water quality” after the breach and that results were “well within the rigorous state water quality standards in place to protect the environment.”

Duke asked for the extension from DEQ in November citing delays due to flooding following Florence and other extreme weather events.

DEQ said Duke Energy must report how much ash has been excavated and the estimated remaining ash in the two basins.

The decision to grant a partial variance was made after a review of comments received during the open comment period that ended on Feb. 4, CAMA of 2014, and recommendations of DEQ staff.

According to coal ash closure directives in CAMA, the Sutton Plant was one of the first closure plans proposed and approved by DEQ.

Click here to see the original variance request from Duke Energy. Additional documents related to DEQ’s variance decision, including the hearing officer’s report, public comments and the final variance decision can be found here.

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